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'Baby, Give Me a Kiss'

The man behind the 'Girls Gone Wild' soft-porn empire lets Claire Hoffman into his world, for better or worse

August 06, 2006|Claire Hoffman | Claire Hoffman covers Hollywood and the adult entertainment industry for The Times.

Then I phone Leland Zaitz, who was working for Francis in Melrose Park as a producer and was in the parking lot during the episode. Zaitz says he interpreted the whole thing as Francis being affectionate toward me, despite the fact that the pressure he applied was so intense that hours later, my arms were covered in red hand marks.

"He starts having fun and he realizes that most people can't keep up with him and he gets a little rough. I think it was just Joe's version of being playful and goofy," Zaitz says. "I think he was trying to bring you in closer."

When I think back on that night, our very public scuffle isn't what seems the most revealing. Instead, the moment I saw Francis most clearly--his charm, his rage, his cunning and even his regret--came later, when no one was looking. I was waiting, still shaken, outside the club for a cab to take me back to my hotel. Francis, who had disappeared inside the bus, returned.

Ignoring the two policemen who hovered a few yards away, he tiptoed past them to stand over me. He rubbed my shoulder. His gestures were oddly gentle--even fond. I felt sick.

"I'm sorry," he said, reaching over to tousle my hair. "We love our little reporter. Don't we guys? We love our little reporter."

I stared down at the dirt as he whispered in my ear, "I'm sorry, baby, give me a kiss. Give me a kiss."

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